Stopping smoking is one of the best things you’ll ever do for your health, and in the Covid pandemic, it’s more important than ever. If you smoke, you generally have an increased risk of respiratory infection and of more severe symptoms once infected. People across Barnsley have signed up for Stoptober – the 28-day stop smoking challenge. Carol Yoxall who works as a domestic at Barnsley Hospital took the plunge earlier and quit on January 19 this year. Carol, 51, of Athersley in Barnsley, had smoked since she was 16. “It just became a habit and I ended up smoking about 15-20 cigarettes a day – more on a bad day. When Covid started I moved from my usual job on the hospital day case unit and on to the wards and I thought ‘now really is the time to stop’ knowing that patients were in hospital with Covid.” Carol signed up to the Yorkshire Smokefree 12-week stop smoking programme and started using nicotine patches to break her habit. She said: “I’d tried to give up a few times but would only last a couple of weeks. This time was different. When I had a craving I just thought ‘no, I’m not going to have one’. I became aware of how disgusting cigarette smoke smelled on other people. No amount of chewing gum, mints or perfume covers it up.” She took up vaping and chose fruity and blackcurrant flavour vaping liquids instead of nicotine flavours to help her break the association with cigarettes. “Since then I haven’t touched a cigarette and not really had the urge for one although I got close when we were in lockdown. My husband hasn’t smoked for 30 years so thinks it’s great that I’ve quit as do my son and daughter. My brother has just started vaping and my niece also thinks it’s great that I’ve quit. For me, my sense of taste has really improved and I feel and look better.” Carol has also saved lots of money by not buying cigarettes. “I like gardening and I like going to buy little garden ornaments with the extra money. That’s brought us a lot of pleasure.” Carol’s determination to stay smoke-free has endured, even in the face of hardship and loss. Her sister-in-law sadly passed away recently and she has ongoing pain from an injury where she fractured her foot. She said: “I can’t exercise much because of my foot but I have still not had a cigarette. I really would advise everyone to quit smoking and young people should never start – it doesn’t make you look cool and you will get hooked. And however bad a day you have, smoking will not help.” Stopping smoking will bring immediate benefits to your health, including if you have an existing smoking-related disease. This is particularly important for both you and for our NHS at a time of intense pressure on the health service. When you stop smoking, you give your lungs the chance to repair and you’ll be able to breathe more easily. There are lots of other benefits too – and they start almost immediately. For more information on stopping, contact Yorkshire Smokefree Barnsley: 0800 612 0011 (free from landlines) or 0330 660 1166 (free from most landlines) and their Facebook page Yorkshire Smokefree.